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Upper Flood Swallet

Upper Flood Swallet Trip Reports from 2007

Including other caves of the Blackmoor Valley area


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Mike R plus SCG members Chris H, Ben and Gina.

Trip report here


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Mike R, Russ, Tim

Mike R took Russ and Tim (prospective member) down Upper Flood. Russ failed to get into the first boulder choke (and had a real struggle at Sludge Duck); Tim and Mike went as far as Golden Chamber. A good time was had by all.

They emptied the two gallon water containers in Golden Chamber into the spray bottle, and brought them back to the Red Room to be refilled.

At the entrance, there was ice on the inside of the lid and the locking mechanism seemed noticeably stiff!


Blackmoor Shaft (Stainsby's Shaft)

Party: Bill C, Mick N, Biff, Carl R and Doug H

Digging in Blackmoor Shaft. Among other objectives, we tidied the shaft and rescued the digging apparatus from the other recent dig (same cave). We hauled out two tyres, an old wheelbarrow (M.C.G.?)and a headlight shell. Biff has taken the tyres away for disposal, the wheelbarrow has been left at the cottage.


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Tim Francis and SWCC.

Purpose: to check some of the known leads

Tim forgot to ask about chest sizes until they were half way in. One chap had a 44 inch chest and found it very tricky going in. He seemed to be pushing bone in the Andrew's Grotto squeeze, Golden Chamber to streamway tube, and "Not Easy Squeeze". And he was over 55 so he certainly wasn't that flexible. A good effort. If he had seen the squeeze template in advance he wouldn't have bothered.

Tube off to the left in East Passage, just before Zebra Aven. The mud-filled body-sized tube that Mike and co. were digging proved to be a bit disappointing. Tim went for a look and squeezed past where the previous diggers had got to. It closed down a body length or so beyond where they could see to. The only possible progress would be to excavate the whole tube to see if there is any continuation in the floor. It does look like quite a lot of water must have come out there at some stage in the past.

Charnel OxbowNew find! Charnel Oxbow. Peat had previously pushed this to where he could hear the sound of a streamway but rocks blocked the way on. Tim went back armed with a crowbar and hammer. It was pretty desperate at the end and reversing out was a challenge. Tim couldn't shift the rocks but managed to get his head up into the passage. It was actually a T-junction and all looked very familiar. The streamway could be heard on the left. All very suspicious. He returned to the others and scoured the floor of the dry stuff just after you leave the streamway. After a bit of rummage they located the other end in the floor. A few rocks removed and the connection was made. So in effect it is a very tight oxbow (Charnel Oxbow) that makes for a very difficult bypass to the main streamway. A collector’s item which won't receive much traffic!


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Mike Richardson, Joel Corrigan, Matt Sinclair (stand-in for Mark Shinwell who was ill) and Bill Chadwick.

Purpose: to check some of the known leads

Walk the Plank Aven Joel thought this would be tricky but do-able. Aided by the 50W spotter lamp we convinced ourselves there might be a way on up there.

Zebra Aven. Joel again thought it a worthwhile prospect and he and Matt set to it while Bill assisted Mike with the nearby tube dig.

Tube dig. Looked innocent enough and at first the air seemed fresh. You know how mud sticks to wellies when you walk through a muddy field in winter - well that's what happened to our hands, the trowel, the tray and everything else down the tube. The fill looks loose enough as you poke the trowel in, but on handling, everything turns to sticky.... With two of us in there and a body plugging the tube we started to pant a bit. Mike left the tube in a state where he thinks Tim or Peat might be prepared to push it.

Dripping Aven Back at the bolting, Joel rigged a traverse and then went up the dripping aven. After a while he passed a squeeze and then sadly the source of the water closed down to an impenetrable crack at a height of about 16m above the floor


Blackmoor Shaft

Party: Bill C and Biff

A reconnaissance of the old dig in Blackmoor Shaft. The rift that is being followed is all natural with mature flowstone coating the walls and blocks,this is a large feature! The last 5 metre drop is very uninspiring but just before it there is solid cave roof going on for at least 4 metres with a slight draught.

We removed a couple of tight bits and generally made access to the dig easier. It needs a couple more trips to sort it out then we will recommence digging.


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Julie Hesketh, Mike Richardson, Pete Glanville and Phillipa Glanville.

Puropse: photography

Pete couldn’t fit through the choke beyond Andrew's grotto, even after quite a determined effort.  Mike took him out whilst Julie took Phillipa, Peter's 22 year old daughter, to the start of Neverland.  Using Pete's camera we shot a few pictures to give an impression of the squeeze.

Julie in boulder choke

Julie in Golden Chaamber

Phillipa in Easysqueeze


MM mine

Party: Mick N, Bill C, Paul K and Biff.

We extended the mine by approx 10 metres, we dug the mined rift for only a metre and broke through to a 6 metre crawl to a t-junction. Left went 3 metres to an upward choked rift, right was 2 metres to the bottom of a mine shaft choked some 3 metres up. There is the remains of a wooden stemple in a wall of dead's, and numerous shot holes in the walls. Future digging will be tricky!

The blockage had been filled from the far side. Likewise the shot-holes had been drilled from the opposite direction to our approach. Our theory is that the shot holes are from the Cornish Miners 1850s re-exploration of the 'Old Mans' workings. The entrance shafts used for this exploration must have been filled from higher up later by the miners or natural collapse. It will be interesting to see where a survey puts the two filled shafts we reached.

There is a strong cold draught coming from somewhere.

Does anybody know the origin of the name MM Mine?


Upper Flood Swallet

Richard looking out of Wall Street

Party: Tim Francis and Richard Carey

Purpose: digging / photography / conservation

Following the discovery of Wall Street, we returned on 16/06/07 with a disposable camera and made an attempt to push the passage. Wall Street is very pretty throughout its length but many of the formations will be safely tucked away on the side. The draft here is one of the strongest in the cave. It’s cold as well, whereas most of the cave near to the stream is quite warm. So we were thoroughly shivering to death after an afternoon’s digging, and bruised and battered after carrying in the drill and assorted metal-ware all that way. It is all very constricted at the end but if you look at the photo, "The Way On" (there was no room for a caver for scale) you can clearly see that it continues. Tim shoved his head in a bit further and it does get bigger. It drops away quite steeply and looks to be well decorated. He suspects that this is in the region of Pork Pie Passage and hopes it connects in an area that isn't too sensitive.

The way onThe obstruction was only 1 inch of flowstone sitting on top of a mud and rock/calcite fill so Richard dug out most of the flowstone face and everything is now is mostly mud. The gour pool was drained through a hole in the floor but after a week or two of wet weather it will be grim again. One more trip to clear out all the floor to make some space and then an attack on the flowstone should see a breakthrough (maybe). However, there just isn't room to get a decent swing with the hammer. And using elbows as a fulcrum isn't much fun. The pom pom formations are rock solid and will clean up afterwards.

The approach inlet passage to Wall Street up to the dripping avens at the end was taped off. Please take care - it may take another roll of tape to tidy it up.

Upper Flood Swallet Survey


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Tim Francis, Richard Carey, Ben Cooper.

Purpose: Digging / surveying

Whilst the others were surveying the main streamway ("550m way"?) Richard and Tim went for a wander around a few points of interest with a few bits of digging kit and no drill. The plan was to push the Walk the Plank inlet.

1. Duck under boss - High level gour. The first stop was to finally look at that unclimbed hole above that big flowstone slope you meet in the streamway. The one you have to duck under which we have avoided climbing because of how pretty it looks.  Richard and Tim de-kitted and cautiously climbed the flowstone. At the top is a small grotto leading to a low body length crawl. At the end is an exceptionally pretty gour pool. It is chest deep and 4m long. Not expecting a cold dunking this early on the trip and in just a furries, they found it was was very cold! At the end of the gour the flowstone rises to the ceiling and completely blocks the passage so there is definitely no way on. This is the last hole to be climbed above the stream, or at least the last one that can be free climbed. So it does seem that all the places where flowstone emerges from the roof close down.

2. Walk the Plank Inlet. Two things of note here. We started to dig out the inlet at the back of the huge flowstone slope. This emits quite a decent stream and is floored with lead tailings. This makes for some rather grim digging. It is of interest because of the proximity to MM Mine, Barwell's Shaft, Blackmoor Swallet and Waterwheel. Anyhow we made some progress but the narrow crawl is blocked with flowstone on the right hand side. The air is very fresh and you can see for another two or three metres into slightly bigger stuff. A couple of uncomfortable sessions should see us through. We've installed a fixed handline to help the climb out of the streamway. It was quite an 'edgy' scramble previously. Please use the rope and keep to the right hand wall. Everything across the flowstone slope to the left is off limits because of the delicate floor and it doesn't go anywhere anyway.

Brian spotted a possible climb on the left hand side wall, looking upstream, just where the Walk the Plank flowstone starts. Tim skirted around the edge to take a look but the climb looks nasty. It'll need protection to get up there.

3. Wall Street - A new find!!! Just upstream, say 30m, from Charnel Inlet, is a rubble slope on the left, down which a healthy stream runs in wet weather. Tim had been meaning to check this out properly for some time although Mike, Doug or Mark had been up there to the end one occasion. It has not been surveyed yet. Upslope starts large but then you have to duck under some boulders to get to the final chamber. There are loads of interesting looking avens here and the stream comes out of one of them. All look serious undertakings. Richard went for a look at a fractured bit of passage on the left hand side. This was blocked by a wall of shattered rocks that looked like it was man made (Wall Street). On a second inspection, as we were heading back out, we realised that in fact a passage could be seen to continue beyond the wall. Three minutes (!) of digging and Richard was squeezing over the wall into the new stuff. We followed 30-40m of nicely decorated passage that is somewhat reminiscent of Neverland. You've got the same fossil gour lines and at the far end are some more pom poms. Quite a find. You can see a way on at the end but we need to dig out the last gour. Tim suspects that this passage will connect with the area around Pork Pie Passage and thus giving us a bypass to the further reaches. Here's hoping.

4. Charnel Inlet - A new find!! On the way in Tim thought he would squeeze to the end of that small descending passage on the left that was looked at on the third or fourth trip in. He had not been there before so was surprised when it kept going and going! It is all small crawly stuff with little tubes going off here and there. After a while the passage starts to ascend and he got as far as a tight flowstone squeeze. He pulled back a couple of rocks but thought it was best to go and get Richard. Unfortunately he couldn't get beyond the initial squeeze that had stopped the original explorers. A hammer should do the job. The air didn't seem too good so it was left for the day. We've probably added 20-30m. This whole area between the streamway and West Passage / Neverland now seems quite complex. The lower levels of Charnel Inlet might connect to that passage hidden behind Chuckle Sump..

Richard and Tim then did some miserable digging at the end of Charnel Inlet. In wet weather a stream runs into a bedding plane so it was really really grim. With just a trowel to hand they wallowed around for an hour or two getting soaked to the skin and resembling mud men. Tim forced the dig into bigger stuff beyond but it almost certainly closes down. Someone can go and look again when its dry but the top end of Charnel Inlet is a probably a no-go. Next plans are to push the end of Wall Street and also Chuckle Choke. Walk the Plank might have to wait for a few weeks. But there's plenty to play for yet. We are well over 3km once all the loose ends and flyovers have been surveyed.

Upper Flood Swallet Survey


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Tim Francis, Peat Bennett

Purpose: digging

Peat and Tim did some digging where the streamway disappears. Its horribly constricted just before the end but we dug over the boulders in the roof so that larger persons can now get to the end. The passage at the end was low and too tight. So we removed the left hand wall. There is now one more pinch point before larger space can be seen beyond, but it doesn't look very hopeful. The water seems to all pond up with plenty of foam and silt-coated rock and it has the impression of being a sump. However it does draft well so perhaps there is a narrow continuation at a higher level? One more trip should should do it although we're not rushing back. Its cold, wet and miserable down there. If it is a sump it must be perched as where you can hear water at Chuckle Choke is further downstream. So the latter increasingly looks a better option.

Something else a few of us have been thinking about is where the likes of Blackmoor Swallet or MM mine might come in. The healthy inlet above Walk the Plank at the back of the chamber looks the best bet (other red circle on the map above). Mike and Tim looked at this last year and it will go further with some effort. Perhaps worth a furtle on the next trip. A handline might be advisable for the climb up out of the stream over the flowstone boss as it’s a bit 'challenging'! The inlet is very small and wet but full of lead tailings. That of course means that there is some sort of connection to surface swallets. Elsewhere in the Flood extensions you don't see lead tailings except for in the low sumpy inlet a little further upstream.

Upper Flood Swallet Survey


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Tim Francis, Mike Moxton, Mike Richardson, Richard Carey, Bill Chadwick,

Purpose: looking at some of the remaining leads.

1. Pretty rift off on the left of Royal Icing Passage, just before the 'up and over'. Tim did a strip down to furries job and went for a look. There's a strong draft here but everything closes down. In the floor it just pinches out into rocks and flowstone. He shimmied up into the roof for about 25ft - a challenging vertical squeeze a bit like doing multiple slots in Pierre's Pot. Nothing doing at the top despite the strong cold and damp draft. There must be an air connection to something beyond but we won't be going through this way. [Note that just before the rift Mike M. spotted a lovely cluster of helictites hidden away up a crack in the roof].

2. Neverland below the pitch. As Ben predicted the low crawl on the left below the pitch does connect with the pot found at the end of that muddy crawl further back. You can't technically make the connection as it pops out high up on the right hand wall of the pot at the top of a mud wall. It would be a very nasty climb. To make the connection Tim dug through the drafting crawl and dropped out into a pool of wading depth. Bizarrely this is only held back from draining into the pot below by 5 feet of mud. From the top you can peer down 20ft to the floor with your toes still in the water. A quick chat and eyeball with Mike M. on the other side confirmed the link.

In the longer term it would be worth putting a handline down the pot and having a proper look in the floor.  A lot of water drains down here which must be going somewhere. Also off to the left before the pot (straight on in the crawl) is a tight airspace over mud that might repay some attention.

Next stop for us is the downstream sink in the main streamway. A spot of hammering should see us through the obstruction in no time at all. Following the stream might be the best thing after all...


Upper Flood Swallet

Party: Mike Richardson (writer), Linda Milne, Brian Snell and Keith Knight

Purpose: engineering

Took four lengths of scaffold bar and a half-dozen clamps with the intention of shoring up the slump in Golden Chamber. Keith got stuck at Sludge Duck, Brian went up and down the canal twice to ferry the gear, so it all arrived in Golden Chamber.

The slump on the way in was OK, a bit more constricted than before, but nothing problematic to anyone who gets that far. It still looks a tad loose though.

Linda and Mike installed three of the bars to make a frame round the jammed block in the climb down out of Golden Chamber so it if does decide to tip it will rest against the bars. The back wall is pretty loose, Mike knocked some lumps of mud down, so another trip is needed need to try and clean it back to solid rock, which will mean either shifting the spoil back through the bolder choke to the Red Room, or passing it through the rift and ferrying it down to the pile at the end of the passage by 3D Squeeze. The false floor that you go over to get to the climb could do with some support.


Upper Flood Swallet

Tim Francis attempted a trip into Upper Flood but found the cave sumped at the Lavatory Trap. Later in the evening he gave an illustrated talk at the Hunters Lodge. The audience comprised somewhere in the region of 130 people (standing room only, mostly). Lacking a PA system, Tim had to make do with using a loud voice; this wasn't really necessary as the audience were so quiet the proverbial pin could be heard dropping - doubtless there have been few rooms containing so many cavers which have been so quiet! The gasps of amazement at some of the pictures were an apt accompaniment to a superb & historic presentation.

The statistics now stand at 2367m surveyed, plus another 450m or so unsurveyed.  Total length is therefore about 2.8km. We are now knocking on Eastwater's door for its 4th place in the list of Mendip's longest caves!  Depth below the entrance is estimated at 120m (393 feet).


Upper Flood Swallet

Ben, Richard and Tim spent 11.5hrs down Upper Flood and surveyed nearly 400m of Neverland to the lip of the pitch. Brian and Peat rigged the traverses and the upwards ladder pitch so that access to the further reaches is now more accessible. There is an electron ladder and line in place on the pitch at the moment but a fixed ladder is proposed for the future. At the far chamber a good rummage around failed to find a way on at floor level. The main trunk passage is intercepted by the huge chamber and the whole place is full of shattered boulders and mud. In the chamber above the pitch, Tim attempted a climb up and left, but was stopped by an overhang.

A new lead was followed below the traverse pitch. Instead of going right through the duck, a low passage on the left was followed to a point were falling water could be heard and the passage echoes hugely. It looks like only a couple of body lengths of mud will need to be removed to be through.


Upper Flood Swallet

Brian Prewer and a surface team attempted to locate various points of the cave using the Grunterhone. At the same time, the MRO used the Heyphone to speak to the cavers below. Although the Heyphone worked well and communication was established, the Grunterphone was less successful. The intention was to radio locate Zebra Aven, and West Passage Only West Passage Choke was located, and only to +/- 20m. It is likely that the very disturbed ground (produced by mining) or an undiscovered ore body caused interference and prevented any accurate radio locations to be found.


Upper Flood Swallet

Survey_detail Tim Francis and Richard Carey spent about 10hrs underground during which they cleared out the bang debris and dug down to the slot between boulders in the floor of West Passage Choke. Tim decided not to drop through as it seemed to be another void in the choke rather than a breakthrough. In Chuckle Choke, the previously bailed sump had refilled (presumably from the far side) back up to the lip. Another 125m was surveyed in Royal Icing Passage ending at another sump. Just back from “Up and Over Tube” is a very highly decorated rift up on the left. Tim went in a little way but the view was obscured by formations. This will need a 'furries only' job to pass so was left it for another day. This rift offers the best prospects for an extension / Neverland bypass in this area.

Tim and Richard climbed up into the roof above the Departure Lounge and into the horrendous boulder choke above. The flowstone on the left was the most stable route up to the top of the gigantic slab that has peeled away from the roof. It continues on up at the back between boulders and the wall.


Upper Flood Swallet

Sonya Cotter and Gary Jones inspected the Neverland and East Passage sumps. The East passage 'sump' turned out to be a grotty pool with no going holes. The sump in Neverland is a real sump, and progress has not been completely ruled out, but it's certainly not going to be an easy free dive to more passage! Gary found several rifty pinched-off bits, one with a really tight gap in the roof. Further investigation with more air is needed to completely rule out any possibilities.Sonya placed more conservation tape by the Pork Pies so that people don't crawl right into the pool but instead, view them from further back.


Upper Flood Swallet

Mike Richardson reported that a fairly large amount of mud and rock had slumped into the climb down out of Golden Chamber.


Upper Flood Swallet

Richard Carey, Bill Chadwick and Tim Francis surveyed 200m of East Passage to a clear deep blue sump, and taped off some of the best bits of floor sediment and mud cracks. Above a rubble climb they noted a very high aven (named Zebra Aven because of the markings on the passage wall at the bottom) and beyond the traverses they inspected a 30ft high rift that ends in a couple of tubes and a delightful grotto with a fine crystal floor. The bang in Chuckle Choke had broken up the surface layer of rocks allowing them to make an arm sized hole through which the streamway could clearly be heard. They bailed out Chuckle Sump to a puddle giving an airspace and a continuation on the far side but the silt in the floor needs removing for the puddle to be passed.

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Page last updated 27 October 2012

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Mendip Caving Group. UK Charity Number 270088. The object of the Group is, for the benefit of the public, the furtherance of all aspects of the exploration, scientific study and conservation of caves and related features. Membership shall be open to anyone over the age of 18 years with an interest in the objects of the Group.